17 Bike Commuting Accessories Schlepped 10,000 Miles

More than ten thousand miles from where I sit, there is a storage unit filled with the other 99 percent of my life’s accumulated crap; the stuff I left behind when I shipped off to Madagascar. This includes all four of my bikes.

Left Behind
It’s probably safe to leave behind those studded snow tires.
Click to enlarge
Photo: Ted Johnson

I crammed that unit full of my material attachments like a minor league Tetris player, and said a sad goodbye to my tax records, my collection of coffee mugs, and a big cat scratching post that used to be a nice wing-back chair.”But what crap did you take to Madagascar,” you ask?Well, that’s the purpose of this post.I have more posts forthcoming in my Tananarivize series on bike commuting in Madagascar’s capitol, but I thought it would be helpful to lay out the gear that I brought with me–right there on the asphalt in front of my storage unit.I will refer back to this post in future dispatches.

Ted's Bike Accessories Taken to Madagascar
Not a yard sale.
Photo: Ted Johnson
  1. An assortment of ratty old cycling gloves:Because I commute with gloves, in any weather. Is that strange?
  2. An Ortlieb Mud Racer LEDsaddle bag:I had to pick a saddle bag, and this one came by default because the mounting hardware was already attached to my saddle.
  3. An Ortlieb 10-Liter Water Bag:Not really for cycling. I brought this knowing that I would probably wouldn’t be able to drink my water right out of the tap. I didn’t even know if I would have a tap. (I do.) I have to filter and treat my drinking water ahead of time, and in this Ortlieb bag is where I store it.
  4. My Detours Coffee Bag:I already reviewed this interesting oddball of a bag. I haven’t found a purpose for it yet in Madagascar, but if I do I will write all about it.
  5. My Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Panniers (with BSH logo):Collectors edition–these are no longer available in black with the logo in white. Jealous?
  6. A Quivver (“The Speedo of Messenger Bags”):I keep thinking I’m going to use this, then I don’t.
  7. A balaclava and…
  8. Apair of racquetball goggles:These may seem like weird things to bring to Madagascar, but right before I left the US I was reading all about a plague of cannibal locusts terrorizing Antananarivo. I thought these would protect my mouth and eyes from billions of bugs. By the time I arrived, the swarm had subsided. But we can always hope for next year.
  9. An assortment of pant leg cuff clips:Not to nitpick, but cuff clips either take too long to put on, or the ones that go on easily also come off too easily. See that silly big one that looks like a shin brace? That’s a Leg Shield, which I reviewed a long time ago. The Leg Shield folks are sending me their newest pant cuff product, which promises to be the easy-on-and-stays-on solution I have been waiting for my entire life.
  10. A Dajia Cycleworks Trekking Handlebar from Velo Orange:Sadly, I pulled this handlebar from my luggage along with my ukulele. I was just a couple of pounds over my weight limit. I was rather proud of how I had wrapped the ukulele and the handlebar together so that the uke was protected. (For thoughts on trekking bars, see Bluescat’s “Trekking Handlebars and Other Comforts.” For thoughts on ukuleles, see “Mother of Pearl” by Nellie McKay.)
  11. A Velo Orange Model 3 Saddle and a jar of VO Saddle Care:It’s only been three years since I got this, but I continue to believe that one day this saddle will be broken in; adapted to my unique butt bones, and I will see what the fuss is all about. Either that or I will try a Brooks saddle like all the other snobs.
  12. G-Form Knee Pads:Because I might be commuting one day, and I’ll start to fall down, and I will pause time, run home, put these on, run back, un-pause time, and fall on my knees and escape injury. Or (to be less of a smartass), I might go mountain biking and want to protect my knees — assuming I can plan ahead.
  13. Philips SafeRide 80 Headlight:This just showed up one day a couple of years ago. I probably should have reviewed it. It’s a nice, bright USB-rechargeable bike headlight with a fancy brushed-aluminum casing. I would have given it a good review. But then, here in Madagascar, the mounting bracket broke just from the bike falling over. And then I would have felt really bad for anyone who had purchased the light based on my recommendation. I totally dodged a bullet there, didn’t I?
  14. A Busch & Mller Topfire Bike Helmet LED Tail Light:This little thing pokes four LEDs out the ventilation holes of your helmet. Will it measure up to my beloved Fire Eye tail light, left behind in the storage unit? I’ll let you know.
  15. Tire levers:If you don’t know what these
    are for, this is not the post where it will be revealed to you.
  16. Two HubBub Helmet Mirrors:That’s right! I like this mirror so much I brought two of them with me. I just may feel generous one day and give one of these to a deserving Madagascan.
  17. The Bike Light Formerly Known as Gotham:Now known as the Defender Glare. I like the theft-resistance of this. We’ll see how I like changing the batteries, which requires a special skinny screwdriver that I have not lost–yet.

Bonus: Smack in the middle of the photo of all my stuff spread out on the ground, there is a can of hairspray. Leave a comment if you know what that is for.Some of this gear will get a full review, some of it I already have reviewed, and some gearmay never be mentioned by me again. If there’s something you’d like me do definitely review, let me know in the comments.And now for the big reveal…

My Madagascar commuter:

Ted's Madagascan Commuter
Sigh… It’s just a bike.
Photo: Ted johnson

Ted Johnson is a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Follow his hardly-ever-about-bikes blogging at Half-Hearted Fanatic, and tweeting at @TedJohnsonIII.Note that the opinions expressed here by Ted Johnson are solely his own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

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5 thoughts on “17 Bike Commuting Accessories Schlepped 10,000 Miles”

  1. Mark says:

    I’d also give the Philips SafeRide a good review, but it doesn’t matter much now since Phillips has discontinued it (getting out of the bicycle light biz, I hear).

    The beam pattern is so much better than most other lights that are basically handlebar mounted flashlights. The beam is wide with a cutoff so it’s not pointing in people’s eyes. It’s slightly dimmer lower down, but since that corresponds to closer to you on the road, it illuminates the road pretty evenly instead of having the foreground too bright. Really, I can’t say enough good things about a good beam shape.

    The 80 lux output doesn’t sound like much, but it’s not easy to compare lux and lumens output. Still, it’s bright enough for unlit roars, not singletrack.

    People complain that it’s so old that it uses NiMH instead of LiIon batteries, but I haven’t had any issues with runtime, so it’s not a problem. On the plus side, the batteries are standard AA size, so they’re easy to replace if you need to. For instance, some early batches of the light had bad batteries.

    Since it’s no longer being made anymore, I’m tempted to buy a second one while I can, but I’m counting on mine lasting long enough that there will be better lights available when it finally does die.

  2. Ted Johnson says:


    I haven’t tried either of these, but since the mounting hardware broke on my Philips, these are the two USB-rechargeable lights I’d consider as replacements:

    Busch & Müller Ixon Pure

    Only 30 lux, but it bet it’s plenty for commuting

    Light and Motion Taz 1200

    1200 lumens, plus a flash mode (which the Philips doesn’t have)

  3. Mark says:

    I think Philips changed the design of the mount. It looks like the first generation had a ball and socket joint that certainly looked fragile.

    If the mount is all that’s broken, since it looks like the mount point on the light is simply bolted on, I’d try to find an old light (such as a Cateye) and see if its mount can be put on the Philips.

    B&M certainly does make nice lights. I’d look into newer ones such as the Ixon Core or Ixon IQ/IQ Premium, if only because they’ve improved the beam pattern. I’ve got a newer 60 lux dynamo light from them, but I still think the Philips has a better beam, both because of the intensity and pattern.

  4. BluesCat says:

    Ha! The hairspray is to keep them handlebar grips from slipping off.

    As far as the Velo Orange Model 3 goes, I noticed that you seem to be using the VO Saddle Care …

    No, no, no, Young Padawan! Git yerself a tin of genuine Brooks Proofide. Lather it on the BOTTOM of the saddle, getting in all the nooks a crannies with a Q-tip. Put a little on the top and let the whole thing set for a bit. THEN ride it for about 500 miles (not all in one stretch, but over a period of a few days or weeks). The two indents SHOULD start to form. If they DON’T, then yeah … join us SNOBS and get a real Brooks (chuckle).

  5. john hopper says:

    I would guess that hairspray is for looking good or for fastening handle bar grips to the bars (or both).

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